Coffee cocktails aren’t just for brunch anymore. Besides being a conduit for caffeine, coffee (the good stuff) is full of oils and rich flavors that pair nicely with a variety of spirits and liqueurs, from whiskey and rum to bittersweet amari.
So, to explore the depths of coffee as a cocktail ingredient, bartenders across the country are reaching for drip coffee, espresso, cold-brew and even coffee syrups to enliven their drinks.
The eight examples below hail from bars around the U.S. and represent some of the best coffee cocktails you’ll find anywhere. Follow the recipes to make them at home, whether you’re entertaining guests or just looking for a wee jolt.
Created at Upstairs at The Gwen in Chicago, this original recipe uses rum and whiskey with a house-made coffee cordial and coconut water, but home bartenders can easily replicate it by substituting brewed coffee and a bit of almond milk. Either way, it’s a slightly sweet, rich coffee drink that’s great for any time of day.
This mezcal-and-amaro-based coffee cocktail was invented as a brunch drink for Esters Wine Shop & Bar in Santa Monica, Calif. The Mexican-themed drink packs a zing from mezcal (it also receives a small pour of blanco tequila) and mole bitters and can be mellowed with a bit of cream. While the recipe calls for Foro amaro, other amari can be easily substituted, such as Ramazzotti, Cynar or Averna. Try one or try them all—until you find a favorite.
Head bartender Nicholas Boden invented a caffeinated, bittersweet take on the classic Chocolate Martini for his bar at Tavernonna Italian Kitchen in Kansas City, Mo.’s Hotel Phillips. The foamy drink calls for chilled espresso, Kahlúa liqueur and amaro to complement the Italian cuisine served at the restaurant. It’s topped with three—always three—coffee beans meant to represent health, happiness and prosperity.
Rather than adding coffee as an ingredient, Pam Wiznitzer of New York City’s Seamstress infuses coffee straight into Campari liqueur. Once armed with this delicious infusion, you can make a Boulevardier or another drink with the liqueur, but the classic Negroni is the best way to go. This is a caffeinated and slightly richer take on the boozy classic, and one that you can start drinking at brunch.
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The classic Bourbon Milk Punch receives a coffee-infused update at New Orleans’ Cavan. Bourbon and cream are paired with Varnelli Caffé Moka, an Italian coffee liqueur, plus a dash of chicory liqueur for an extra special New Orleans flourish. Drink it for brunch, order one as an afternoon pick-me-up, or enlist this rich cocktail whenever your day calls for caffeinated bourbon.
This coffee cocktail by Tommy Quimby at San Francisco’s Rich Table is perfect for post-dinner nightcaps—or whenever you want a warming treat. Coffee is dosed with Tempus Fugit crème de cacao and Fernet-Branca for a one-two punch of chocolate and herbal bitterness. And that thick head on top? It’s DIY pistachio whipped cream, which ensures an extra-delicious mustache.
There’s a lot going on here, and you’re going to like it. New York bar The Bennett mixes this combination, which starts with Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey, a blend of bourbon, corn whiskey, rye and a small measure of Oloroso sherry. From there, the drink demands cold-brew coffee, amaretto, cinnamon syrup, cream and Vino chinato, an Italian grape-based aperitif. Put it all together, and the cocktail’s perfect balance of caffeinated zip and herbal will get you through any night.
Campari and pineapple juice in your cup of joe? Yep! From Cindy’s in Chicago, the Roman Holiday is a trapeze act of bitter and sweet, with a backbone of Amaro Meletti and cold-brew coffee. All that is kept in order by fresh lime juice, demerara syrup and a pinch of salt. Think of this drink as Tiki’s Italian cousin, but with a caffeine buzz.